A tarantula

We wanted to show size comparison.

DESERT TARANTULA (Aphonopelma chalcodes)

APPEARANCE: The spider body is heavy and hairy with gray to dark brown cephalothorax and brownish black abdomen. Iridescent hair forms pad below tip of each leg. Adult males are 2 - 2 1/2 inches and females are 2 - 2 3/4 inches with a leg span of 4 inches.

HABITAT & RANGE: This spider lives in desert soil or sand in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, and further south.

LIFE CYCLE: Male tries to maintain contact with female. If she moves away, he persues desired mate aggressively. Eggs are hidden in an available, natural cavity and spiderlings appear to be females until after last molt. This is when males emerge with distinctive pedipalps along with more slender and larger legs. Females continue to molt after maturity and may live to 20 years.

COMMENTS: Male wanders in dim light after sunset or near dawn searching for mate. He hides by day under stones or in an abandoned hole. These spiders are not aggressive and are reluctant to attack people. The venom is normally no more poisonous than a bee sting.

That's according to my NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY NATURE GUIDES--DESERTS (Ninth Printing, 1997).

PERSONAL NOTE FROM LYNNE: Locals say the brown tarantula is more aggressive than the black and yellow ones. I have observed both in this area and the latter seems to get somewhat larger than the brown ones, too.

I brought this one in to the office in a pint jar and the poor critter went through several exit and re-entries of the jar. With four people, three cameras, and a couple of different photo sessions, they report the tarantula was very well behaved.

Tom said, "You let that thing out of the jar, and I'll be 60 feet away." Not so. He was right there with his camera, his phobia, and added a smile when Juan did a little dance when the taratula got too near his boot.

Angie reported, "Gentle as a kitten." When asked how she got close enough for this great close-up, she answered with, "Get close enough to kiss a spider."

After the multiple photo sessions, the tarantula waited patiently in the jar for the return ride to my house. I released the critter in the same place I collected it, where it remained until about sunset and quickly disappeared.